Is a Video Interview an Interview If It’s Asynchronous?

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Nov 3, 2022

I’ve spent the better part of the last 15 years working at fast-growing companies building out talent acquisition teams. I’ve seen a lot of new-fangled tech promise to speed up hiring, provide objective assessments, increase team diversity, and provide candidates with more flexibility. Of the newer tools making flashy claims are asynchronous video interviews (also known as digital interviews or one-way video interviews). At their core, these services record videos of a candidate responding to questions that hiring teams review later.

But the problem with video interviews is that they create a poor candidate experience.     

A Candidate’s Experience With Video Interviewing

Picture it: You’re looking for a job and for the dozenth time this week you’ve found a role at a company that you’re interested in, so you excitedly submit an application! Imagine, too, that you were laid off a few months ago. It’s been slim pickings for something new, and the holidays are coming up, so you really hope to hear back soon. So you wait anxiously.

A few days go by and after mindlessly checking your email for the 428th time today a new email arrives: 

“Congratulations, you’ve been selected for a digital interview!” 

Your heart races with excitement…until you get further down to learn what a “digital interview” really is.

You learn you have to sign up for and trust yet another service with your data, and you are given four days to finish. Oh, and by the way, the email came through at 8:45 on Thursday night. It’s late so you decide to deal with this later. 

On Sunday you decide to submit a video response to three text-based questions. You’re given 15 seconds to review each question prior to recording and will have three attempts per question. If you run out of attempts, your final submission is submitted.

So you go look for your notes about why you applied for the job and why you liked this company. Still, you start to feel flustered and hot, asking yourself, “Why am I good enough to move forward but they can’t just talk to me for a few minutes? Why do I have to invest so much time with so little info about the job and company? Why am I going through this… I guess I don’t have any choice, I need a job badly.”

You pause, collect yourself, and do your best to answer the questions authentically, but the situation is so alien and uncomfortable that as you record, you can’t focus, you stutter, your palms sweat, you say “uhm,” and accidentally blow through all your attempts and are forced to submit. Then it’s over and you go back to anxiously waiting.

Efficiency vs “Efficiency”

I don’t have to picture it. That was me recently. My head was spinning from the bad experience, so I took to LinkedIn where I received a tremendous response to my post. The overwhelming sentiment was that asynchronous interviews are widely hated by candidates, detrimental to their experience, and negatively impact all aspects of an employer brand.

I heard from people of various different backgrounds, including those in talent acquisition, commenting: “…many people like myself stress out and have anxiety over taking any tests” and “who has the time to review all those videos!” and “[Video interviews favor] the ones with the best webcams, and lighting.”

I also heard from job seekers who shared details like “I’m very introverted and I do not like one way video interviews… You end up getting judged on how well you talk and look while recording yourself, rather than being judged on what you’re saying and on your qualifications” and “I did 2 of these earlier this year with [redacted] and it was the worst experience ever, didn’t feel like I had a fighting chance.”

Of course, It doesn’t take long to create counterarguments that are in favor of asynchronous interviewing. For example, vendors and others in the field will claim that video interviews speed up hiring because two-way interviews demand more time to schedule and conduct. 

What that argument overlooks, however, is that people process conversation at about 100 to 150 words per minute, whereas we process reading text at about 250 to 350 wpm. It would therefore suggest that it could be better for candidates to supply written answers to questions, since it would be twice as fast to have a recruiter read answers rather than view them. 

That is, if a recruiter is viewing any video. Artificial intelligence often steps in to analyze video responses to create efficiency. Again, though, AI can just as easily comb through written replies. Which begs the question: Why the video component in such a stress-inducing manner?

The Introduction of Bias

The question is especially important given the technology’s potential to inject bias into the hiring process.

Vendors will claim that this technology is great for candidates who are anxious or nervous or have specific conditions like ADHD or autism. But as an introvert with ADHD myself, I cannot say that I do better talking to a screen than I do to a person. Comments on my LinkedIn post by individuals on the spectrum suggest that I’m not alone. 

Granted, many candidates will eventually go on to engage in video interviews, where their appearance might create opportunities for bias, but that is no argument for introducing more bias into the screening process.

Meanwhile, those who self-identified as neurodivergent or socially anxious all reported hating one-way video interviews. Many also said that they excelled in situations where interview questions were provided in advance. Fifteen seconds to review a question doesn’t count as advance notice to me.

The one argument in favor of these tools that I can agree with is that they give candidates additional flexibility. Being able to provide your information from anywhere on any device at any time is really powerful, though I don’t think that video interviews are the ultimate or even best solution to do that. 

Again, written responses that are thought-out can also be submitted any time.

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